Takamoto Katsuta remained on course to produce a monumental shock victory in the WRC 2 support category at Rally Sweden on Saturday night.
The Japanese youngster eased away from reigning champion and home hero Pontus Tidemand and will take a 12.2sec lead into Sunday’s short final leg as he bids for a maiden WRC 2 win.
The Toyota Gazoo Racing development driver, who is ironically at the wheel of a Ford Fiesta R5, restarted with a 4.0sec lead over Tidemand. He won four of the eight speed tests, mostly on snow and ice-covered forest roads, to stretch his advantage.
“Tomorrow we have long stages and the rally isn’t over yet. A great day today with no issues and we need to continue like this,” said Katsuta.
Tidemand won today’s opening stage in his Skoda Fabia R5 and headed team-mate Ole Christian Veiby by 8.6sec. Norwegian Veiby was hot on the Swede’s heels for much of the day but a cracked brake disc prompted caution late on.
Rookie Mattias Adielsson was more than a minute behind in fourth and veteran Janne Tuohino survived an unplanned trip into a snow bank to end in fifth. Jari Huttunen dropped four minutes in the snow and the Finn slid from fourth to sixth in a Hyundai i20 R5.
Hiroki Arai, team-mate to Katsuta, conceded six minutes with an electrical problem in his Fiesta’s engine and was seventh.
Kevin Abbring retired with engine problems after going off the road, Radik Shaymiev crashed out and Umberto Scandola exited in bizarre fashion. A stud flew off the tyre of a car in front on a liaison section and pierced his Fabia’s radiator.
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